Joe Tizzard: “Native River certainly no back number for the Gold Cup”
Weekend racing and Grand National talk from the Tizzard stables
Newbury 13.15 – L’Air Du Vent
It’s a big weekend ahead for us, with several runners having what will hopefully be their Cheltenham Festival prep runs, and like all connections, we’ll be hoping Storm Ciara doesn’t cause too much disruption, and that Exeter’s Sunday card goes ahead as planned.
We start with L’Air Du Vent at Newbury. He travelled well in his two runs at Cheltenham, but something was stopping him, and at the back of our minds we felt his wind might be catching up with him, so we’ve had it tweaked now.
You never quite know how they’ll run first time after a wind op, but he is a horse we hold in high regard, and if he is to take up one of his Cheltenham entries [Supreme or Ballymore], he’d need to run a big race here.
Newbury 13.50 – Ainchea
Ainchea started his career brightly, but for some reason it’s just not happening for him now, he’s been struggling bit lately.
The handicapper looks to have given him a chance here, although he’ll have needed to, and I’m sure 3 miles will suit him.
He was actually going OK at Cheltenham last time, but then made one bad mistake, which stopped him in his tracks. We’ll hope for better here, but the truth is he’s struggling at the moment.
Newbury 15.00 – Native River
Native River is in great form, and this race has been the plan for him since Aintree in December, where he was so impressive.
Might Bite fell early that day, but he went on to beat a really solid yardstick in Black Corton, and beat him comfortably. The blinkers replaced cheek pieces that day, and just seemed to sharpen his jumping up.
Jonjo [O’Neill jr] schooled him last week, and he was in terrific form.
Obviously he’s Dickie [Johnson’s] ride, but with Dickie on the sidelines, it made sense to pick a rider who could ride him in the Gold Cup, if, and only if, Dickie’s recovery didn’t go to plan.
He’s a straightforward ride, but Jonjo works hard for us, is here regularly, rides plenty of winners for us, and we were keen to support him.
He’s proved in previous years that this is the perfect Gold Cup prep run for him, although he ran OK last season, we were never 100% happy with him.
It could be that his Gold Cup battle with Might Bite took plenty out of both of them, he was just a little bit quiet.
This autumn we were much happier with him, and he went and backed that up on the track, at Aintree.
He’s certainly no back number for the Gold Cup, especially if it came up soft at Cheltenham, so hopefully he can come through this prep run nicely, he runs well at Newbury, and I can seen him and Might Bite popping over the first two or three together, and then they’ll work it out from there!
Newbury 16.10 – Highest Sun
Jonjo also rides Highest Sun for us in this Novice Chase. The pair won at Plumpton two runs ago, and for some reason then didn’t fire at Warwick, we fancied him that day but he just ran a bit flat.
Nothing obvious showed up after that, it could be that it just came a bit soon after his flu jab, that can happen in January. He schooled very well on Wednesday, so hopefully this can get us back on track with him.
Exeter 13.55 – Reserve Tank
Reserve Tank is very much a spring horse, as he showed last season, so his run at Newbury last November just wasn’t his true running.
We’ve freshened him up since then, and this is very much his prep run for Cheltenham [Marsh Novices’ Chase]. He looks a million dollars, schooled really well in midweek, and this is hopefully a stepping stone to bigger things at the spring festivals.
Exeter 14.25 – Lieutenant Rocco & Honest Exchange
We run two in this novice hurdle. Lieutenant Rocco was mightily impressive at Chepstow first time up for us.
He jumped and galloped well that day, and as a result we have given him a Cheltenham entry [Albert Bartlett], so if he takes the next step up here and was to win impressively, he could go to the Festival.
It’s an old cliché, but he is a lovely chaser in the making, he’s a big boy, and this season is a bit of a bonus.
We also run Honest Exchange. We bought him at the Cheltenham sale in December, after he won a couple of point-to-points, and he’s going nicely at home, so we’ll find out a bit more about him here.
Exeter 15.00 – Kilbricken Storm and White Moon
We’re also double-handed in the Pertemps qualifier. Kilbricken Storm ran in the Cleeve Hurdle last time, and didn’t disgrace himself, he ran OK behind Paisley Park.
He did have his issues last season, but he’s coming back to himself this campaign, and the handicapper has given him a chance here.
He needs to finish in the first six here to qualify for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham, and if he runs like he has in his last two races, he’ll be in the shake-up, and that should get him qualified.
We’re obviously also trying to get White Moon qualified for the Festival race. We took him to Huntingdon last time and he finished seventh, one place too low to get qualified!
He seems in good form going into this, and to be honest if he can’t finish in the first six here, he shouldn’t be going to Cheltenham anyway.
Exeter 16.05 – Master Debonair
We’ve got a lovely team of novice hurdlers this year, and Master Debonair is one of them.
If Exeter does get called off, and fingers-crossed it doesn’t, we’ve had long conversations about where we might go with this horse, as we would like to get one more run into him ahead of the Festival.
We’ve had this race in mind for him since Christmas, following his excellent win at Ascot, he’s in cracking form, jumps well, but he could just do with another run.
It may be that our hand is forced and we can’t run him again, but the track and trip will suit here, it’s the perfect prep for him, I’d expect him to take all the beating here, against some decent opposition it has to be said, and then it would be all systems go for the Supreme.
Grand National weights
We head up to Liverpool on Tuesday for the Randox Grand National weights lunch.
As well as being one of the most enjoyable days out of the year, and moving it to the race’s home city was a great idea, there’s the serious business of finding out what weight our two Grand National entries will have to carry.
For Native River, it’s very much a case of Gold Cup first, and no decision would be made on his Aintree participation until after Cheltenham.
There are only three weeks between the two Festivals, so it would all hinge on how he got on at Cheltenham.
As far as Elegant Escape is concerned, we’re keen to go for the National, as is his owner John Romans, so we just have to plot his route there.
He’s in the trial at Haydock next weekend, and he’s had his wind tweaked since his last run, so we just need to decide where we go between now and Aintree.
The big talking point on Tuesday will be how much weight Tiger Roll gets allocated, I’m sure comments from his connections were just designed to get a few pounds off his back!
There are some highly rated chasers around Tiger Roll, including our pair, and personally, 11-7 for Native and 11-0 for Elegant, that would do us!